My Favorite Movie Threesome Blogathon…

wifevssecretary
Source: MGM

Ladies, are you ever worried that your man might have eyes for someone else?

Do you suspect he’s cheating on you with his secretary, despite showering you with love and affection?

If that’s so, then Wife vs Secretary might be the perfect movie to empathize with.

Starring a wicked cast of Myrna Loy, Jean Harlow and Clark The King of Hollywood Gable, Wife vs Secretary‘s title is pretty self-explanatory.

Loy and Gable play Mr. and Mrs. Stanhope, a couple who are very much in love. In fact, as the movie begins, we see the two about to celebrate their third wedding anniversary with breakfast.

However, Linda Stanhope (played by Myrna Loy) notices that her publisher husband Van (played by Clark Gable) forgot to give her a gift to celebrate their anniversary. Rather perturbed by the whole ordeal, Linda proceeds to give Van the cold shoulder as they sit down to eat together.

After of few moments of bickering, Linda believes her day is ruined. The problem is only resolved when she takes a knife and fork to her plate, revealing that Van had actually hidden her gift (a bracelet) in the belly of the fish she was about to devour. Surprised, all of the fighting they did a few seconds ago flies out the window.

Ohh, Van, you’re always three steps ahead!

What a great husband!

wife vs secretary
source: MGM

The only person who is actively looking for kinks in this marriage is Van’s mother, Mimi Stanhope (played by May Robson.)

You see, Mimi thinks that her son’s secretary, Helen ‘Whitey’ Wilson (played by Jean Harlow) is too attractive to be working for her son up to no good. She believes that Ms. Wilson is a serious threat to her son’s marriage, despite Helen having absolutely no interest in him. Mimi even tells Linda about the potential incoming danger, but thankfully, she pays no mind to the baseless rumor about her husband.

Unfortunately, the rumors only intensify when Linda’s friends happen to have the same opinion as her mother- in- law.

Faced with a barrage of accusations, Linda stands by her man.

You go, girl!

Even though we’ve seen multiple people confirm that there’s no truth to the rumor – including ‘Whitey’ and Van – there’s always that one person to take it personally; this time, that person is Helen’s fiancé, Joe (played by James Stewart.) Joe doesn’t like how his bride-to-be is spending so much time with a man who isn’t him. This time disparity makes him feel very insecure about his relationship with her.

Clark, Myrna, Jean in Wife vs Secretary
source: MGM

Hoping to, possibly, tie her down for good, Joe proposes marriage. Helen declines, citing her devotion to work with Van on a ‘secret’ plan to buy a rival newspaper. Van fears that the news of the ‘takeover’ might leak to the press, so, he hides it from everybody- except his lovely secretary, ‘Whitey.’

*RED FLAG ALERT*

The secrecy surrounding the project only deepens the divide between Linda and Van. It isn’t until an office get-together celebrating her husband’s business: Stanhope Publishing, that Linda goes off the deep end. At an ice skating party nonetheless, Linda witnesses Helen getting a little too cozy with her husband.

For Linda, this is the last straw.

She asks Van to transfer ‘Whitey’ to another office, which leads to an argument between the two. Fortunately, the Stanhopes make up later that same night.

Fast-forward a few days, and Van books a trip to Havana with the hope that Linda forgives him for not firing ‘Whitey.’ Everything seems to be looking up for the Stanhopes, right?

Haha, no.

Quickly after Van books the flight to Cuba, he finds out that the man who runs the magazine that he’s trying to buy is, coincidentally, also in Havana. Trying to stay ahead of game, Van uninvites his wife and switches ticket name to Helen. For some reason, Linda doesn’t seem to mind, at this point of the film, she accepts the fact that her husband is having an affair. The two travel to Havana and manage to close the deal.

Clark and Jean in Wife vs Secretary
source: MGM

While Linda is back at home, heartbroken, ‘Whitey’ and Van drunkenly celebrate closing the deal in Havana. Obviously, with alcohol comes wandering hands. Van and Helen, for a moment, become strongly attracted to each other.

Checking in on her husband, as a loving wife would do, Linda calls Van’s hotel room from New York. The phone rings and ‘Whitey’ promptly picks up the phone.

Uh, oh.

Linda hears her voice, hangs up the phone, and assumes the worst. A few days later, Van returns to New York and attempts to explain what happened. Linda doesn’t want to hear it and begins filing for divorce. Lonely and devasted, Van decides to go sailing to Bermuda and invites ‘Whitey’ to help ease his loneliness. By this point, Helen has fallen in love with Van, so of course, she isn’t going to say no.

After spending a few moments together, Helen realizes that Van will never love her as much as he loves his wife. Hoping to get the couple back together, Helen visits Linda on a cruise about to set sail for Europe, a few days before she and Van take off for Bermuda.

Figuring out that this is her last chance to convince Linda to go back to Van, Helen pleads to her claiming that, she would be a “fool” to let a man like Van go. After thinking it over, Linda, finally, goes back to Van. Luckily, they both forgive each other. ‘Whitey’ goes back to Joe and Linda and Van make up, for good.

Conclusion

I really wish more people would watch this movie. It really is a sweet film, and the trio of Myrna Loy, Clark Gable, and Jean Harlow work very well. There were many moments in the picture where I genuinely felt terrible for Myrna Loy‘s character. Particularly the scene where she calls her husband and it’s ‘Whitey’ that picks up the phone. I can feel her disappointment and anguish through the screen, it was palpable.

As for Jean Harlow, this was one of the many roles of Jean‘s that I really enjoyed. Her character of Helen played the perfect ‘foil’ to Mr. and Mrs. Stanhope’s relationship. It made it very bittersweet when Van did get back with his wife at the end because she seemed like such a nice girl, but, hey what can you do?

Finally, we can’t talk about this movie without discussing Clark Gable. Clark is everyone’s dream husband in this. He loves Linda with such devotion, it’s hard not to root for the guy. Even though I was somewhat disappointed that he didn’t run away with Helen at the end of the film, I still very much enjoyed the chemistry between himself and Myrna Loy.

All in all, Wife vs Secretary is a fantastic movie, and it most certainly does this blogathon justice. If you haven’t seen it, please do! It really is an incredible movie and you definitely won’t regret it, I certainly didn’t.

 

 

 

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Till Death Us Do Part Blogathon…

unfaithfully yours
source: Twentieth Century-Fox

More people should know about Preston Sturges.

He’s the director of many wonderful comedies like Sullivan’s Travel’s, The Lady Eve and The Palm Beach Story, and his 1948 effort Unfaithfully Yours is no different. Starring Rex Harrison, Linda Darnell, Rudy Vallée and Barbara Lawrence, the movie tells the story of British conductor Alfred de Carter (played by Rex Harrison) and his wife Daphne (played by the gorgeous Linda Darnell.) The de Carter’s are your typical, upper middle-class couple. He loves her unconditionally, and she loves the attention he gives her (in a good way.)

Here’s the twist, he wants nothing more than to kill her.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen. This fine, loving, caring husband wishes to kill his wife in the most gruesome way possible.

How did he reach this breaking point you may ask?

Well, his wife cheated.

Isn’t murder justifiable when your spouse cheats on you? Preston Sturges seems to think so, but, not exactly in the way that you think.

Unfaithfully-Yours-DI
source: Twentieth Century-Fox

You see, instead of making Unfaithfully Yours into a thriller/drama in the vain of Dial M for Murder, Sturges decides to take this material and make into a dark comedy.

Genius!

It works perfectly, even though movie goers at the time didn’t think so (we’ll discuss this later.)

The film starts off with Mrs. de Carter waiting at an airport with a group of family members/ friends, eagerly anticipating the return of her husband from his native country of England. Alfred steps off the plane, sees his wife, rushes out as quickly as possible and immediately gives her one the biggest embraces I’ve seen on camera.

After that big hubbub at the airport, the group checks into a rather luxurious hotel a few miles away. While freshening up after his cross Atlantic trip from England, Alfred’s brother- in- law August Henschler (played by Rudy Vallée) admits that he misunderstood what he meant when Alfred told him to “watch his wife” while he was out of town.

Oh, dear.

August mistakenly hires a detective named “Sweeney” (played by Edgar Kennedy) that was tasked with following Mrs. de Carter for the duration of her husband’s trip to England. Henschler takes it one step further when he shows his brother-in-law Sweeny’s report about his wife.

Unfaithfully Yours
source: Twentieth Century-Fox

Irate at him for doing such a thing, Alfred quickly tears up the report then storms out the door to start rehearsals for his orchestra.

Upon returning from the rehearsal, he gets a visit from the hotel’s resident detective (apparently they have those) who gives him another copy of the ripped up report. Determined to get rid of it once and for all, Alfred pulls out a match, lights it on fire, and promptly throws it into the garbage can. This, consequently, ends up setting the drapes a blaze.

It is here where we get out first slapstick moment of the movie. Mr. de Carter sprints to the nearest fire hose and attempts to put out the fire to no success. A second fellow runs to another hose and tries to put it out, but, he just ends up spraying Mr. de Carter. The whole thing is a mess, it really is an absurd scene in the best way possible.

Anyway.

Alfred’s firefighting makes him late to his dinner with his wife.

Rex Harrison and Linda Darnell
source: Twentieth Century-Fox

At the restaurant, just before meeting up with his wife, Alfred runs into Daphne’s sister Barbara (played by Barbara Lawrence) and her husband August, who’s sitting a few feet away from his reserved table.

She makes an off the cuff remark about Daphne and his secretary Anthony Windborn (played by Kurt Kreuger) looking “too cute” sitting alone together at his table.

He brushes off her comment and joins the pair at the table. But, all the while he’s enjoying their company, he can’t help but think that his wife actually did step out on him. Wanting to quench this urge, he seeks out the detective agency that ‘stalked’ his wife. He finds the office and runs into the man who originally gave the report to his brother-in-law: Sweeney.

Sweeney wants to tell him the things that were on the report, but, he insinuates that the acts on it were too lewd. He explains that one night, Daphne was seen leaving another man’s room after about 38 minutes, only wearing negligee. At first, Alfred was terribly hurt. Then, an avalanche of rage washes over his face.

He bolts back to the hotel, where he discovers that the number of the room his wife walked out of was that of his secretary, Tony.

Unfaithfully Yours table scene
source: Twentieth Century-Fox

He catches up with his wife who’s getting ready to head out for her husband’s performance later that night. Alfred finds her in the middle of putting on her dress and proceeds to give her the cold shoulder.

Daphne, obviously upset about the way her husband is treating her, runs off in resentment to the concert hall.

Arriving at the hall about 30 minutes later, Alfred shows up and takes his conductor’s stand. During his performance, Alfred imagines three scenarios in which he can handle this situation.

The first is a rather gruesome scene. He imagines slashing his wife’s throat and somehow blaming it on her ‘lover’ Tony. The whole plan is rather complex and very precise, it truly is very impressive. The second scenario is him apologizing her and her lover, proclaiming that, “youth needs youth” while simultaneously writing a check out in Daphne’s name for $100,000. In the third and final scenario, Alfred challenges his wife and Tony to a game of wits by forcing them to participate in a game of Russian roulette.

After the third-daydream ends, which happens to coincide with his last song, Alfred rushes out of the concert hall and takes a cab back to their apartment where he attempts to set up the scenario from his first daydream.

In classic Sturges style, everything fails hilariously.

Rex Harrsion in Unfaithfully Yours
source:  Twentieth Century-Fox

Every detail Alfred planned beforehand in his head, doesn’t come to fruition.

He’s a bumbling fool and I’m dying of laughter.

He makes a mess of his apartment and realizes that he should quit while he’s ahead when he cuts himself trying to make a straight blade razor a little bit sharper. His wife Daphne walks in and surveys the mess her husband has made. Insisting that he has a cold, she convinces Alfred to stop whatever he’s doing and get some rest.

Alfred discerns from his wife’s reaction that she truly does love him. He gives up on his giant temper tantrum and, finally, asks his wife why she was in Tony’s room. Daphne explains that she suspected Barbara of having an affair with Tony. So, she went to into his room to see if she was there – she was not.

So, there she is, in another man’s room in a negligee with a detective trailing her every move. She sees the private eye and swiftly sneaks into an empty room. By the time she gets to this point in her story, Alfred starts to connect the dots: Sweeney was the man who was following her, and that the entire situation was just a big misunderstanding.

The movie ends with Alfred taking his wife in his arms, begging for forgiveness, and quoting a line from a poem that states, “a thousand poets dreamed for a thousand years, then you were born, my love.”

Conclusion

Many movie fans (including myself) may have enjoyed this movie, but at the time of its release, audience members unanimously rejected the film’s ‘dark’ tone. I could understand this sentiment. There are some fairly dark moments in the film, yes, but it is a dark comedy, and I don’t think many people understood that in 1948. I suppose that’s one of the many reasons it didn’t do too well at the box office.

As for my opinion, I believe it’s a fantastic movie.

The acting performances, the directing- all of it! Yes, the subject matter was a little heavy, but the way Preston Sturges directs makes it little less, ‘shocking.’ Rex Harrison and Linda Darnell worked very well together and that contributed to how well acted this movie is. All in all, Unfaithfully Yours is the perfect movie for this blogathon. It’s funny, well scripted, and most importantly, fits the subject matter perfectly.

 

If would like to see the other entries in this blogathon, click: here

Classic Film Reviews: Mogambo (1953)

mogambopg5
source: MGM

If you ever wanted to roam the savannas of Kenya with two gorgeous women and a very gray Clark Gable, then Mogambo may be the movie for you.

Directed by John Ford and filmed on location in Tanzania and Kenya, Mogambo is no one’s favorite movie, unless you ask me.

Kelly. Gable. Ford. Gardner in Africa

I can’t think of anything better.

The film starts off with Eloise “Honey Bear” Kelly (played by Ava Gardner) taking a shower to cool off from the hot African sun. It appears that Eloise is in Africa hoping to meet up with a rich maharajah who promised her that he takes care of her for the rest of her life. True to classic Hollywood form that doesn’t happen, so, Eloise is stuck in the middle of Kenya, with no money and no man.

Right after we get introduced to the raven-haired beauty, we meet a very gray-looking Clark Gable who’s playing a big game hunter named Victor Marswell.

Ava and Clark
source: MGM

Victor Marswell is your typical 1950s male. Big, strong, brash, and attracted to women half his age. These characteristics are the most apparent in the scene where Victor stumbles upon Eloise scantily clad in a robe, just inches away from stepping out of the shower. The two trade jabs for a few moments until Eloise tells him why she’s really here.

Amused, but slightly annoyed, Victor, begrudgingly agrees to let Eloise stay on the reservation until the next boat to the airport swings by. During those few days, Victor and Eloise develop feelings for each other.

Here’s where things get a bit tricky.

Off to the horizon, a boat gets docked. In it brings a lovely pair named the Nordleys – Donald (played by Donald Sinden) and Linda (played by Grace Kelly.) The Nordleys are wealthy English couple who came to this Kenyan reservation with the hope of being able to go into gorilla country.

Victor, being the grumpy old man that he is, flat out refuses to re-adjust his schedule just to play tour guide to a couple of privileged Brits. Meanwhile, when all of this is happening, Eloise returns to the reservation due to a malfunction on the passenger boat that she intended to take out of Africa.

mogambo donald grace ava
source: MGM

The next morning, Eloise and Linda convene for some breakfast. For some reason, Eloise takes the liberty to tell Linda about all of her past sexual escapades. This, understandably, makes Linda uncomfortable, but, this interaction is a good indicator of what their relationship will look like as the film progresses.

Those brief exchange of words prompts Linda to take a stroll around the reservation to get her thoughts in order. While out on this walk, she stumbles upon a black leopard ready to pounce.

Unbeknownst to Linda, Victor was behind her the entire time, making sure that she doesn’t get killed. If it wasn’t for his heroics, Linda would’ve been a dead woman, and we couldn’t have that, can we? On their way back to the base, an unnatural wind-storm stirs up around them, which forces Victor too, literally, sweep Linda off her feet and carry her to safety.

This intense moment, obviously, causes Linda to see Victor in a different light – a romantic light.

Well, “oh, no!” you say, “Linda’s married!”

The conflict arises.

mogambo 1953
source: MGM

Later that night at dinner, Eloise notices that things are a little bit tense between Linda and Victor. She quickly catches the drift and starts subtly teasing the two during the entire meal. In order to ease tensions (or in my opinion, escalate them) Victor announces that he’s had a change of heart and will take the Nordleys to see the gorillas, albeit resentfully.

Eloise, pretty much sick of Africa, tags along on the trek so she could leave the group halfway to catch (another) flight back to the States. So, the group leaves the reservation in search of some gorillas, but, as everyone else is trying to enjoy the scenery (mainly Linda’s husband) Eloise, Linda and Victor are stuck in a love triangle.

How about that?

Poor Donald Nordley, all he wanted to see were some gorillas, and all he got was his wife falling in love with a man who looks like Clark Gable.

It’s a pity.

Mogambo
source: MGM

Anyway.

On their way to gorilla country, the group takes a ‘pit stop’ at a mission run by a priest named Father Josef (played by Denis O’Dea) who agrees to lend Victor a few canoes so that he could, safely, cross a rather aggressive river. While Victor is retrieving those canoes, Eloise takes this opportunity to confess to Father Josef about the things that have been weighing heavily on her heart (aka let me tell someone that this lady has been cheating on her husband of 7 years.)

The Father suggests that Eloise should go and attempt to make a friend out of Mrs. Nordley. She takes him up on that offer and apologizes for everything she’s done, while simultaneously extending a hand of friendship. Linda rebuffs her advances, creating an even deeper divide between the two women.

After getting the canoes, the group continues on into the jungles of Kenya. They finally reach a checkpoint where Eloise would be dropped off. 

Upon landing on this territory, they find the station manager badly injured from what appears to be a native uprising the night before. This setback causes Eloise to miss her flight (again) and now, she’s stuck on this tour until they head back to the reservation.

As they’re escorting the man out they get attacked by the same tribe that injured him in the first place. Luckily, they manage to escape unscathed.

Clark and Grace
source: MGM

That night, the group finally reaches gorilla country. After a long day of traveling, everyone comfortably settles down into their campsites. Eloise is busy talking to a tour guide about her late ex-husband, Mr. Nordley is blissfully unaware of what’s happening to his wife, and Victor and Linda are nowhere to be found.

Actually, they’re out taking a moonlight stroll together, but, her husband doesn’t care! He’s out here to see some gorillas.

Tragic.

While out on their midnight walk, Victor and Linda fall into a very passionate embrace. We all knew it was coming, I just didn’t know when; I suppose under the moon in an African jungle sounds like the perfect time to do it.

Realizing what she’s done, Linda sprints back to base camp where she finds her husband fast asleep. He wakes up when she enters their tent and Mr. Nordley proceeds to embrace his wife. Ashamed and on the verge of tears she refuses his affections and promptly goes to bed.

The next morning, Victor takes the Nordleys to see the gorillas.

Clark&Ava Mogambo
source: MGM

The guilt of having kissed another man’s wife is weighing heavily on Victor, and he confronts Linda about it. He tells her that he’s going to tell her husband about their affair. Linda is not to content with this idea, but, Victor is going to do it anyway. While his helping hands are setting up the gorilla traps, Victor steps up to Mr. Nordley’s tent and is about to, basically, ruin the life a very decent man in Donald Nordley.

Donald greets him and begins to gush about how much he loves Linda and how he was pretty disappointed that she forgot their anniversary that happened the night before- the same night Victor and Linda were out frolicking in the African jungle. 

Overcome with guilt and anger, Victor storms back to his tent understanding that he can’t tell Mr. Nordley about his affair with Linda.

That evening, while the group is sitting around a campfire, an aide to Victor makes insinuations about his relationship with Mrs. Nordley. Donald takes offense to those remarks and leaves the outpost in a fit of rage.

Fast forward a couple of hours, Eloise saunters into Victor’s tent and realizes he’s drunk. She assumes that he went to confront Donald Nordley about his “extracurricular activities” with his wife but ultimately failed.

Clark and Ava in Mogambo
source: MGM

Eloise then sits down on Victor’s lap, throws caution to the wind, and joins him for a nightcap. About a few moments after this happens Linda walks into to the tent.

Oh, boy…

Victor thinks quick, and plays up his ‘drunken’ attitude, seeing it as a way to end his fling with Linda. He drinks, he laughs, he pulls Eloise a little bit closer than he normally would, and all of this makes Linda hysterical to the point where she shoots Victor. Thanks to her horrible aim, she misses his chest and hits him in the arm. Funny enough, just as Linda was doing this, her husband returns to camp just in time to see this trainwreck.

Eloise, being the slick-tongued woman that she is, improvises an excuse, claiming that Victor was making a pass at Linda, and she shot him in self defense.

The next morning, the Nordleys depart, leaving behind a flurry of emotions for both Eloise and Victor. The pair are left behind where they, finally, admit their feelings for each other which concludes with Victor proposing to Eloise.

Conclusion and The Crazy ‘Behind the Scenes’ Stories

Behind the Scenes of Mogambo
Clark Gable, Frank Sinatra, Grace Kelly, Ava Gardner & Donald Sinden on location while filming Mogambo (1953)

Mogambo is a good movie, not a great one. It has a great plot, an astonishing location shoot in Nairobi, and a great director in John Ford, but sometimes the acting was lackluster. As a matter of fact, even the lovely Grace Kelly is overshadowed by the remarkable acting performance that Ava Gardner puts on in this movie.

While most Kelly fans (including myself) went into this movie, hoping for another Kelly masterclass in acting, we actually got to see the acting talents of Gardner flourish a bit. Apparently, I’m not the only one to believe this. The Academy Awards also thought Ava put in a good performance and eventually awarded her with an Oscar nomination for Best Actress in a Leading Role in 1954.

Ava may have gotten nominated for an Academy Award, but it was Grace who took home some silverware in 1954, with a Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Supporting Role.

For whatever the film lacked in acting, certainly made up for the behind the scenes stories.

Grace Ava and Donald
Ava Gardner, Donald Sinden and Grace Kelly on the set of Mogambo (1953)

It all started when John Ford requested that the main cast spend a few weeks in the sun to make sure they got that “African suntan look.” Well, his plan backfired when the pasty white skins of Gable, Kelly, and Gardner got a little too dark, which was later lightened up by the makeup department.

This incident was only a sign of what was yet to come.

The real ‘fun’ started when Ava brought her then-husband Frank Sinatra to the set in Kenya. At the time, their marriage was having a bit of trouble. Something, apparently, happened back in LA at a house party, which caused Frank to freak out in a fit of anger. We don’t know exactly what happened, but whatever did seem to carry over into their flight over to Africa.

According to a letter written by Grace Kelly to a friend back in the States, she proclaims that Frank and Ava were constantly fighting, making up and breaking up, and that it particularly disturbed her because she had a tent right next to them and could hear everything.

The skirmishes only disappeared when Frank was able to rest easy about his faltering career when he landed the coveted part of ‘Maggio’ in the WWII epic From Here to Eternity in 1953.

Ava and Clark in Mogambo
Ava Gardner and Clark Gable during the filming of Mogambo (1953)

Speaking of Grace Kelly, she had her fair share of problems while working on this movie as well; and by problems, I mean Clark Gable. Gable being an ardent outdoorsman, was absolutely ecstatic about living in Africa for a couple of months. Conveniently enough, Grace also happened to be a huge fan of hunting.

Just like their characters on screen, Clark and Grace spent most of their time walking around Africa, just getting to know each other. Eventually, they end up falling into a May-December romance.

Grace would call him, “Ba”, which means father in Swahili, while Clark would be there just enjoying the company of a woman who was young enough to be his daughter.

Even actor Donald Sinden, who played Mr. Nordley,  has claimed to have seen Grace and Clark having a *ahem* “afternoon swim” together, hell she confirmed herself.

Grace and Clark
Grace Kelly and Clark Gable on the set of Mogambo (1953)

Heck! When the on-location shoots in Nairobi were over, Kelly and Gable continued their romance in London where Clark rented out a hotel room specifically fitted with an ‘in and out way’ where they could discreetly have access to each other’s rooms without the rest of the cast knowing.

Unfortunately, the affair came to an end when Grace‘s mother, Margaret, came to stay with her 23-year-old daughter in London.

Being your typical overbearing mother, Mama Kelly gave her daughter the ‘okay’ to marry Gable. This, naturally, scared off Gable who clearly didn’t want to. Consequently, Gable refused Grace‘s calls, stopped talking to her on re-shoot days, and basically ‘ghosted’ her. This left Grace heartbroken and she inevitably quit trying to reconcile with Gable.

Based on what happened on screen and off screen, Mogambo is certainly worth your time. If it isn’t for the actual movie, then it must definitely be for the crazy behind the scenes stories. It isn’t the best movie, but, it’s sure as heck one of my favorite movies.

My Apologies, Mr. Hitchcock

39steps+logo
source: Gaumont-British Picture Corporation

I feel slightly embarrassed.

When I plan on watching a film, I usually pick an actor (or actress) that I fancy, then scroll through a list their films until there’s movie of theirs that I haven’t yet seen. Naturally, I tend to gravitate to the actors and actresses that helped me form my love of classic movies. I’m used to them, and watching their films is the equivalent of eating comfort food for me.

One of the actresses whose films I was enthralled with was Grace Kelly, particularly Rear Window.

As a freshman in Highschool, I took a cinema appreciation class where Rear Window was one of the films being shown. I quickly realized that I could watch more films in that style when my young, feeble, mind discovered the glorious filmography of Alfred Hitchcock.

themanwhoknewtoomuch1934
source: Gaumont-British Picture Corporation

I watched every Hitchcock film that invoked that same feeling I had when watching Rear Window, whether it was Spellbound, North By Northwest, Notorious, Dial M for Murder, Rebecca, Suspicion, you name it. It didn’t matter, I just wanted to experience that ‘Hitchcock touch’ again.

But, there’s a problem.

Notice a pattern? Every film that I listed came from Hitchcock‘s career in the 1940s and 50s America. Although I absolutely that era of his career, there’s another side of Hitch that I had no clue existed.

If you watch TCM (and let’s be honest, we all do) then you might’ve heard about their Hitchcock 50 celebration.

Not too sure what that is?

Then let me quickly explain.

Basically, TCM and Ball State University teamed up to create a course where us movie fans able to learn and dissect Hitchcock‘s career.

Lead by Dr. Richard L. Edwards (seriously, this guy has a Ph.D. in Critical Studies from USC’s School of Cinematic Arts, it’s incredible,) the course has been live for about 3 weeks and I’ve already learned so much more than I thought I would.

This is where my embarrassment kicks in.

theladyvanishes
Enter a caption: Gaumont-British Picture Corporation

I was your ‘basic’ classic movie fan. I only had interest in watching Hitchcock‘s American films, you know exactly the ones I’m talking about. I had absolutely no interest beyond that- until I took TCM’s Hitchcock 50 course.

The course opened my eyes to a different side of Hitch, and I’m ashamed to admit, but it also introduced me to films that I haven’t even heard of. For example: Hitchcock‘s Thriller Sextet.

From 1934 to 1938 Hitchcock made his mark on cinema history by releasing 6 films that would come to shape his entire career. The Man Who Knew Too MuchSabotage, Secret Agent, Young and Innocent, The Lady Vanishes and The 39 Steps are the movies that changed my outlook of Hitch.

I realize that these were the movies where he honed his skills as a director. This is where he developed that ‘Hitchcock‘ touch that we all know and love. It took TCM, Ball State University, and some common sense to finally appreciate the genius of this man. I’m embarrassed that I didn’t know sooner, and for that, I apologize Mr. Hitchcock.

So, if you can, don’t limit your movie watching to one area of Hitchcock‘s career. Look at his earlier movies, I guarantee you won’t regret it!

The Best of M-G-M: Summer Stock (1950)

summer stock
source: MGM

Ahhh, there’s nothing like watching a good ole’ fashioned MGM musical during the summer months. Funny enough, the perfect musical for this season has the word “summer” in its title.

It isn’t necessarily about rainy days or hot summer nights, but when you watch it, you’ll definitely feel compelled to go outside and experience the great outdoors, or in this movie’s case, a farm.

Directed by Charles Walters and co-starring Judy Garland, Gloria DeHaven, Phil Silvers, Marjorie Main and Gene Kelly, Summer Stock is a lovely little film about love, farms, and stage performances.

summer stock judy garland
source: MGM

In the film, Garland plays Jane Falbury, a headstrong Connecticut farmer who has a religious dedication to her craft. Even though she’s worked hard to make sure that her property runs like a well oiled machine, three years of bad crops have seen her farm go to ruin.

Unfortunately, with no crops, comes no revenue.

Despite going bankrupt, Jane still manages to pay for her sister Abigail’s acting lessons in upstate New York. To add to her list of problems, two of Jane’s farm hands quit to take office jobs in Hartford.

As if things couldn’t get any worse, she is forced to beg her boyfriend’s father (played by Ray Collins) for a loan to buy a tractor to kick-start the effort to try to revitalize her farm. Asking for a favor from her future father-in-law knocks her ego down a peg, but, she swallows her pride and gets it done.

When Jane returns to her property, she finds it being overrun by a group of troupe performers. Frustrated and confused about what’s happening, she demands to speak to the person responsible for this.

After a couple minutes of looking around, she runs into her sister, Abigail (played by Gloria DeHaven). Abigail explains that she invited the troupe down to Connecticut so they would be able to have a space to put on their stage play.

summer-stock-kelly-garland
source: MGM

Naturally, Jane doesn’t take the news too well.

She tells Abigail to send these people packing, but before Jane could really get worked up, Abigail’s boyfriend, Joe Ross (played Gene Kelly) steps in to diffuse the situation. His attempts to sweet-talk Jane work, however, there’s a catch. In order for them to stay, they must put in their fair share of farm work; in other words, they must help Jane with her daily farm duties.

The troupe agrees, and Jane proceeds to split them into groups of three, showing each trio how and what needs to be done around the farm.

Later that day, after an exhausting few hours of showing actors how to manage a farm, Jane lends her housekeeper a hand by washing dishes from the previous night’s dinner. In an attempt to lighten the mood, Jane decides to do an impromptu tap dance for her own amusement, but in actuality, it was to poke fun at Abigail’s boyfriend, Joe.

Unbeknownst to Jane, Joe was standing behind her the entire time. Embarrassed, she swiftly apologizes, but he didn’t mind. To her surprise, Joe was impressed that she could even dance in the first place. Fast forward a couple of days and, somehow, word gets out that Jane is hiding an acting troupe on her farm.

summer-stock-kelly-garland-1950
source: MGM

Because of this, she is concerned about what the local townsfolk might think when they encounter a bevy of stage performers in a relatively small, quiet town. Unfortunately, her fears come true when she’s summoned to explain herself in front of the town leaders.

While she’s gone, an actor back at the farm thought it would be a good idea to take Jane’s tractor out for a joy ride.

In true classic Hollywood fashion, something bad has to happen, right? Absolutely! The guy ends up wrecking Jane’s tractor and has no quick way to fix it before she returns home from her meeting. By the time a solution to the problem has been found, Jane has already returned.

She finds out what happened, and angrily tells Joe that his troupe needs to return to where they came from. Panicked, Joe tries to maneuver his way out of another sticky situation.

Before anything gets too out of hand, Joe reveals that he and his troupe members pulled together some cash to buy Jane a new tractor.

summer-stock
source: MGM

Jane reconsiders her decision, and changes her tune. While all of this is happening, however, Abigail disappears from the farm. This is a problem, considering that the play is about open in a few days time. Joe, Jane and the rest of the troupe try to search for her, with no use.

Instead of going to search for Abigail, Joe gets another ‘bright’ idea. He suggests that Jane takes her sister’s place in the show. Well, Jane’s boyfriend overhears this, and staunchly objects. Jane, sick of his act, threatens to call off their engagement. Orville takes offense to her tone, and storms off of Jane’s property.

As the film progresses, we see Jane and Joe rehearsing, laughing, singing, and eventually falling in love.

A couple of days pass, and opening night for the musical finally arrives. Just before Jane and Joe are about to take the stage, Orville returns, this time he has Abigail with him.

summer stock get happy
source: MGM

When Abigail confronts Joe and Jane, she instantly expects her sister to relinquish the role that she had before she went rogue. Obviously, Jane flat out tells her no, and when she sees that her sister and Joe, clearly have feelings for each other, she quits harassing them.

At the end of the film, we see Jane and Joe get on stage to perform together, but before they do, Joe proposes marriage which Jane, happily, accepts.

Conclusion

garland-kelly
source: MGM

Perhaps, Summer Stock is better known for its antics off-screen than the acting that you see on screen.

Judy Garland was going through a rough time making this film- and it shows. In certain scenes, you see Garland looking pretty overweight and tired. Now, I don’t have an issue with this, a Judy Garland movie is still a Judy Garland movie to me, but at the time Summer Stock was released, it was very noticeable.

This was the period where Garland‘s drug addiction was spiraling out of control. According to Gene Kelly, he tells film producer Joe Pasternak that he was only doing Summer Stock as a favor to Garland because he, “had every reason to be grateful for all the help she had given me.”

It was a well-known secret that Garland had a problem with psychiatric medications, going all the way back to her Wizard of Oz days, and unfortunately, the problem lasted well into her adult years.

Luckily, for Garland who was hoping to get her life back on track, the script for Summer Stock happened to land right on her lap. Fresh out of rehab, and ready for a new start, MGM offered Garland the lead role with the hopes of getting her to work consistently again.

behindthescenesof Summer Stock
Behind The Scenes of Summer Stock (1950)

During production, however, it proved to be a difficult problem.

There were multiple instances where Garland couldn’t work due to depression. This inevitably caused delays in the movie’s schedule, which frustrated the cast and crew. Emotionally, physically, and mentally Garland was gone.  But somehow, someway director Charles Walters and company got through the difficult shoot and created a pretty decent movie.

Despite the behind the scenes hubbub that Summer Stock is known for, the movie manages to be incredibly entertaining.

With its high flying dance scenes, interesting plot, and a hilarious supporting cast of actors like Phil Silvers, Marjorie Main and Eddie Bracken, Summer Stock is certainly a classic movie musical. Even though the movie had some issues off camera, it never showed. In fact, it added to the movie’s enjoyability.

When watching it, you appreciate Judy Garland even more, just due to the fact that she went through all of that and still managed to put out the performance that she did. If you haven’t seen this movie, I recommend that you do. Not only is it a fantastic musical, it also gives you a chance to appreciate how much of a professional Judy Garland was.